The Note: Mad at the Hunt Club

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5

NEWS SUMMARY

We are often asked: what are The Note's 2006 New Year's resolutions?

We resolve to be short and complete, accessible and insider, focused on Washington and on the nation, idealistic and snarky, hopelessly pro-Bush and hopelessly anti-Bush, concerned with governance and with politics, more interested in must-reads and more generous to Ed Chen, and more mathematical.

Getting all that done in one 365-day period won't be easy, as evidenced by today's lede, on a political news day of abundant cats and dogs.

We walked into The Note Assembly Room on Rhode Island Avenue Northeast this morning, and began the day as we always do: decorative liter bottles of Diet Coke in hand, we wandered along the walls, looking up at the taped-up print-outs of the various stories and news summaries that the Googling monkeys had prepared over night.

Then, in a moment of lucidity most closely resembling the marriage of chocolate to peanut butter LINK, we realized that all of today's must-reads form a perfect mathematical formula.

Now: the problem with this formula is that it is only understandable to those of you whose insider knowledge matches or exceeds, say, Chris Henick's or Jeff Eller's. (If you don't know who those guys are, well, you have just proved our point.)

In any case, for some of you, the following formula is pretty much the only part of today's Note you need to read; for the rest, skip down to our schedule after the words "CIVILIANS: BEGIN READING HERE."

Ron Brownstein LINK - Bob Novak LINK - (David Brooks LINK + Peggy Noonan LINK) + Heidi Przybyla LINK = Congressman Rahm Emanuel LINK

CIVILIANS: BEGIN READING HERE

In an event after The Note's heart for theater, President Bush will meet with current and former Secretaries of State and Defense in the Roosevelt Room at the White House at 9:30 am ET. He'll chat with the pool at the bottom of the meeting and then pose for a photo opportunity. The topic du jour is Iraq and the global war on terror. In a display of bipartisan bonhomie, at least four Clinton-era officials are expected to attend including Secretaries Albright, Perry, and Cohen. (Insert your own Warren Christopher joke here, unless Secretary Christopher is ailing, in which case, we wish him our best.)

Later in the day, the President signs H.R. 3402, the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 in the Oval Office at 3:20 pm ET. Mrs. Bush is expected to attend. President Bush then heads to the State Department for 3:45 pm ET remarks to the "US University Presidents Summit on International Education."

There is lots and lots of Alito-related activity today for you:

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) holds a roundtable with reporters at 11:00 am ET on the upcoming Alito confirmation hearings. According to a Kennedy spokeswoman, "he will lay out the many questions Alito will face about the growing credibility gaps between his assurances to Senators in 1990 and now, and his writings, his speeches, and his 15 years of opinions." The spokeswoman goes on to Note that the Alito nomination will be the twenty-third Supreme Court nomination for which Kennedy fulfilled his advise and consent duty.

Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) will do his rebuttal press briefing via teleconference at 2:45 pm ET. There will also be two back-to-back pro-Alito press conferences at the National Press Club. "Women for Alito" are up first at 10:00 am ET (including Concerned Women for America's Jan LaRue), followed by "African Americans for Alito" at noon ET.

Conveniently timed for those Alito beat reporters, the Alliance for Justice is hosting a 10:00 am ET press conference also at the National Press Club featuring a group of law professors opposed to the Alito nomination.

At 1:00 pm ET, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will deliver a Center for American Progress sponsored speech on the Alito nomination. A Q&A is scheduled to follow the speech.

IndependentCourt.Org will deliver more than one million anti-Alito petitions to Sen. Specter's district office in Philadelphia, PA at 11:00 am ET.

Courtesy of the folks at the American Progress Action Fund, 11 national student and youth organizations are coming together to speak out against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court at 9:00 am ET.

In non-Alito schedule news, Sen. Lieberman (D-CT) is scheduled to discuss lobbying reform at 12:30 pm ET in the Senate gallery studio.

At 3:30 pm ET, Secretary Snow, fresh off of an appearance on C-SPAN's "Total Request Live," takes to the US Chamber of Commerce to deliver a speech entitled, "Outlook 2006: The State of American Business."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) delivers his State of the State address at 8:05 pm ET in the Assembly chamber in Sacramento, CA. (See our preview below.)

AFL-CIO President John Sweeny holds a noon ET press teleconference to announce the launch of a new health care campaign in 29 states aimed at stopping large corporations from shifting health care insurance costs onto workers.

At the State House in Boston, MA at 11:00 am ET, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) will file legislation to help protect victims of sexual assault from HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Lynn Swann continues his statewide announcement tour in his first full official day as a Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania.

The Constitution Project hosts a panel discussion on domestic spying and NSA surveillance at Hogan & Hartson in Washington, DC at 9:30 am ET.

Abramoff: the politics:

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times wisely weighs in on the Democrats' (limited) opportunity to make political hay out of the Abramoff scandal. LINK

In a must-read, the New York Times Notes the prospects for Tom DeLay returning to his post as majority leader are not good, with "senior House Republicans" saying they sensed a shift away from DeLay following the Abramoff plea deal and predicting a petition for new elections will likely succeed if DeLay does not relinquish the position on his own. LINK

"The Abramoff scandal could also deprive House Republicans of the fund-raising power of Mr. DeLay, previously a celebrity draw on the campaign circuit, as they head into a year when they will face a stiff Democratic challenge to their thin majority."

Note question: does DeLay know who the Times' sources are? If he doesn't, our sense is: he should.

The Houston Chronicle reports, "the burgeoning Jack Abramoff corruption scandal has made it all but certain that Rep. Tom DeLay will not return as House majority leader, aides to the Republican House leadership said Wednesday." Rep. Jeff Flake (R- AZ) commented, "Unfairly or not, DeLay has become a symbol of a culture gone bad in Washington." LINK

Note question: does Kevin Madden know who the Chronicle's sources are? We bet he does.

ABC News' Liz Marlantes has Jennifer Duffy of Cook Political Report fame saying that Mike DeWine could possibly end up as collateral damage in the Abramoff saga due to the politically toxic climate in Ohio surrounding ethics. Marlantes writes that the Democrats will continue to try to frame the Abramoff story solely as a "Republican problem." LINK

Over at Newsweek online, Howard Fineman sizes up the winners and losers in the Abramoff scandal in a way that might give the Democrats hope that their "Republican problem" message is taking hold. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank Sketches the ways in which Gingrich's charges of GOP cronyism echo one of the Democrats' 2006 campaign themes. LINK

Abramoff: shedding tainted cash:

In a must-read Washington Post story which ledes with President Bush's decision to give back $6,000 directly connected to Abramoff (as opposed to the "more than $100,000" that Abramoff raised for Bush's re-election campaign), Jonathan Weisman reports that "at least 24 politicians have now pledged to relinquish $515,199 in "Abramoff-tainted campaign cash, including some of the most powerful Republicans in Washington." LINK

"All but three of the 24 politicians giving up the funds are Republicans." The three Democrats – Baucus of Montana, Durbin of Illinois and Dorgan of North Dakota -- have "pledged to shed a total of $97,000 in contributions."

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate Democratic Leader "has no intention of shedding the $47,000 he has received from Abramoff's lobbying team and tribal clients."

Reid spokesguy Jim Manley is quoted as saying: "Abramoff was a Republican operative, and this is a Republican scandal. Any effort by Republicans to drag Democrats into this is doomed to failure."

Following the White House lead, Sens. Gregg and Sununu said they will make $15,000 worth of charitable donations totaling the amount from the scandal-plagued Jack Abramoff, reports John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader. (Note that the cash strapped New Hampshire GOP has no intentions of getting rid of the $20,000 it has received from Abramoff-related clients.) LINK

The Nation's Newspaper on how much they got and who's returning it. LINK

Abramoff: news of day:

Indictments coming from the Abramoff plea deal are not imminent, reports the New York Times, which quotes an unnamed participant saying that prosecutors may spend several months trying to "get it right." LINK

The Washington Times' Jerry Seper has "one source close to the Washington investigation" saying that "'a minimum' of 20 people are of interest to federal investigators in the probe, including elected officials." LINK

The Boston Globe's Michael Kranish highlights the Hastert and Reid letters to Secretary Norton expressing opposition to off-reservation casino expansion, a position supported by Abramoff's clients. LINK

Abramoff: editorials:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fergus Bordewich writes that the principle of tribal sovereignty serves "the self-interest of tribal officials and predators like Jack Abramoff much more than it does the welfare of rank-and-file tribal members. . . ."

Abramoff: how it's playing at home:

The Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning looks at Hastert's history with Abramoff. LINK

Sen. Chuck Grassley is -- thus far -- refusing to follow the President's lead and is instead hanging on to contributions his campaign and PAC have received from Abramoff, reports the Associated Press. LINK

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

The Washington Post's Babington and Fletcher report that Democratic leaders say more of their colleagues will oppose Alito than did Roberts, "but privately they say it will be difficult to block his confirmation." LINK

(Note to Jim Manley: ??)

Jess Bravin looks at Alito's expansive view of executive power for the Wall Street Journal's front page.

"In 2000, Judge Alito referred to the unitary-executive theory of presidential power as 'the gospel according to OLC,' a reference to his office in the Reagan Justice Department. The theory has since become the foundation for the current administration's assertions that it has the power to interpret treaties, determine the fate of enemy prisoners, and jail U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without charging them."

(Note question: How long before Democrats depict Alito as one more "rubber stamp"?)

The Washington Times' Guy Taylor on Alito's wit and Democratic clerks. LINK

Philadelphia Rev. Herbert Lusk will host Justice Sunday III this weekend in support of the Alito nomination, even though Lusk tells the New York Times he does not know much about the nominee. The Times Notes that Lusk has been investigated by the IRS for mixing church and politics, and Lusk courted controversy after receiving a $1 million faith-based initiative grant in 2002. LINK

The New York Times fact checks a new MoveOn.org ad about Judge Alito that the White House calls "dishonest" and "a desperation tactic." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds joins Ralph Neas and Jerry Falwell in getting amped for the Alito hearings. LINK

Bush agenda:

Democrats called for hearings into the Administration's mine safety policies yesterday in the wake of the Sago Mine tragedy. LINK

The New York Times editorial page throws grenades at the White House over the mine tragedy, saying "the Bush administration's cramming of important posts in the Department of the Interior with biased operatives from the coal, oil and gas industry is not reassuring about general safety in the mines." LINK

The Washington Post's Tom Edsall on the raft of "controversial recess appointments" President Bush made yesterday, including Julie Myers as head of Immigration and Customs. LINK

Politics of spying:

The Washington Times' Bill Gertz reports that Russ Tice, a former National Security Agency official and whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he believes were carried out illegally. LINK

"'I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency,' Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by the Washington Times."

"The letters were sent the same day that the New York Times revealed that the NSA was engaged in a clandestine eavesdropping program that bypassed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court."

Per the Washington Post's indefatigable Carol D. Leonnig, several FISA judges are scheduled to receive a classified briefing Monday from top Justice Department and intelligence officials about the "controversial warrantless-eavesdropping program, according to sources familiar with the arrangements." LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Dan Eggen challenge Vice President Cheney's assertion to the Heritage Foundation yesterday that warrantless monitoring may have averted 9/11. LINK

Bloomberg's Holly Rosenkrantz has Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) reaction in which he says that is "the kind of argument people like to make sometimes when they're trying to cover their tracks." LINK

Jane Harman's letter to the White House claiming Congress has received insufficient briefings on the domestic spying program was significant, the New York Times Notes, because Harman was previously one of the few Democrats to support the program. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

Robert Novak hears murmuring that it's time for House Democrats to solve their "Nancy problem." Novak's solution: replace "senior citizen" Pelosi with her number two, Rep. Steny Hoyer. LINK

Displeased with his decision to drop Las Vegas, NV from a list of high-risk cities, Sen. Harry Reid is calling on DHS Secretary Chertoff to resign. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The Wall Street Journal's ed board sees more reasons for hope than despair in Iraq but nonetheless feels that it was a "mistake" for US and British intelligence to "bet all their chips" on Allawi as "the standard bearer for secularism in Iraq" and that "proportional representation" is an inferior form of democracy that exacerbates exactly the sort of sectarian divisions that threaten Iraq."

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny writes up Sen. Obama's first trip to Iraq as part of a CODEL led by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN). LINK

The one-two punch of speeches about Iraq by Bush and Cheney yesterday stuck to familiar formulas, reports the New York Times. LINK

USA Today on the same: LINK

Politics of national security:

The Boston Globe's Savage follows up on his Wednesday story with the firm response from Republican Sens. Warner, McCain, and Graham warning the Administration not to back pedal. LINK

(The Note is amazed at the lack of follow up on this one. We are sending our news judgment to Betty Ford to deal with our "exhaustion" and "dehydration.")

The Washington Post's Josh White on Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) accusing the Bush Administration of seeking to "end-run the legislative process" on detainee petitions. LINK

The New York Times reports on the Supreme Court's ruling in the Jose Padilla case, which amounted to "something of a victory for the administration." LINK

The Washington Post's Jerry Markon on the same. LINK

New Hampshire:

The New Hampshire Union Leader's DiStaso Notes in his "Granite Status" column that state Republicans lost their best chance at knocking off high-in-the-polls Gov. John Lynch this November when Bruce Keough said yesterday that it was "very unlikely" that he would run for governor, citing heavy involvement in a Portsmouth real estate project. Other potential GOP candidates include Windham Rep James Coburn and former Franklin Mayor Tony Giunta. LINK

Iowa:

In the spirit of Page Six. . .

Just asking. . . What is former New York Republican Party Chairman and Pataki confidante Sandy Treadwell doing in Iowa today and tomorrow?

The Des Moines Register's Iowa Ear reports that gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats asked some of his holiday card recipients to embrace the giving nature of the holidays when he misstamped cards that required 12 cents more postage than the standard 37-cent stamp. LINK

South Carolina:

The State's coverage of Gov. Sanford's (R-SC) election-year $6 billion budget. LINK

2008: Republicans:

In the Boston Phoenix, Mark Jurkowitz contemplates the role of the Boston political press corps in shaping how Gov. Romney is perceived by the national political press corps in advance of his expected presidential run. LINK

The Boston Herald reports that animal rights activists have had their feathers ruffled after reports that Gov. Romney went hunting for fenced in quail yesterday. LINK

(Don't miss the New York Post-ian photo illustration.)

Gov. George Pataki's final state of the state address yesterday in Albany amounted to a rehearsal for an '08 presidential run, a theme picked up on by the New York Times, New York Post, and New York Daily News. LINK and LINK and LINK

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen on "McCain's day to crow." LINK

Is Sen./Dr./Leader Frist trying to avoid a home-state straw poll defeat? In his most recent email dispatch to VOLPAC supporters he urges them to attend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, TN in March and Notes the fact that there will be a straw poll (courtesy of our friends at the Hotline) "which is sure to provide a unique outlook on the 2008 presidential race," writes Frist.

2008: Democrats:

"A fund-raising committee for Senator Clinton's 2000 campaign has agreed to pay a $35,000 civil penalty and to concede that reports it made to the federal government understated by more than $700,000 donations to a California celebrity gala held to benefit her Senate bid," reports the New York Sun's Josh "Papa Don't Preach" Gerstein. LINK

It may be a stretch to some, but the New York Post's Deb Orin says the Abramoff scandal could negatively impact Hillary Clinton's 2008 ambitions because tales of "influence-peddling bring to mind Clinton-era scandals like fat-cat sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House." LINK

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack racked up a large travel bill in 2005, reports the Associated Press, with stops during the last year in at least 23 states, the District of Columbia and two foreign countries. LINK

Katherine Skiba of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has Feingold accusing President Bush of being in "attack mode" and saying that Alito's views on executive branch powers during a time of war should be a focus of next week's confirmation hearings. LINK

2006:

In a piece looking at Democratic efforts to tap pro-gun, anti-abortion congressional candidates, Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla reports that the percentage of money donated by the NRA to Democratic House and Senate candidates has increased to 17 percent of funds given so far in the 2006 cycle as compared to 12 percent of the $1.2 million contributed in the 2002 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. LINK

Guv-lover David Broder urges readers to watch six gubernatorial contests in the Midwest for clues to 2008: LINK

". . . at the risk of being contrarian, let me suggest that the most significant results of 2006 will not involve the Senate or House but instead will be found in six Midwest governors' races."

"The campaigns in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin will tell us more about the direction of the country and the shape of the 2008 presidential battleground than any of the battles for Capitol Hill -- where incumbency advantages in both money and gerrymandering are likely to skew the results."

The AP's Glen Johnson gets on the front page of his former newspaper with details that AG Reilly called the district attorney investigating "a car crash that killed the daughters of a campaign contributor." LINK

In a remark to the Associated Press yesterday, New York Gov. George Pataki suggested he would support state Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello to challenge Sen. Clinton later this year. LINK

Former Steelers receiver Lynn Swann launched his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last night in Pittsburgh, pledging an administration that would deliver lower taxes and a reformed property tax system. Here's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's James O'Toole with more: LINK

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will make an election-year push to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Fresh from a bruising 2005 Special Election which saw all four of his ballot measures go down to defeat, the actor-turned-politician is hoping to use the annual "State of the State" address to reclaim the aura of a non-partisan, above-the-fray reformer by holding the line on new taxes while pushing infrastructure improvements, a $1 hike in the state's minimum wage, more money for K-12 schools, and a freeze on university tuition hikes that were expected in 2006-07.

Schwarzenegger is able to dole out these goodies because the state's coffers—while still running in the red—are in better shape than when he entered office.

In recent days, Schwarzenegger's staff has dribbled out almost all of the policy items that the governor will discuss tomorrow. But Thursday's speech will represent the first time that Schwarzenegger pulls all the pieces together and presents them as part of a multi-year, systematic "strategic growth" approach.

The governor's infrastructure package (which might require borrowing on the order of $25-30 billion) is said to include money not only for transportation but also for port upgrades, hospitals, schools, and levees.

In recent weeks, Schwarzenegger has made two key staff hires that illustrate the political tightrope he is walking as the Republican governor of a largely Democratic state. He has hired Republican Steve Schmidt to run his re-election campaign while tapping Democrat Susan Kennedy to be his top statehouse aide.

Bloomberg's Michael B. Marois reports that Schwarzenegger will undertake two rebuilding efforts tonight: "one to repair the state's infrastructure, the other to restore his damaged popularity." LINK

The Los Angeles Times previews the Governor's State of the State speech tonight, offering details on his plans to raise the minimum wage and make prescription drugs more affordable. The big unveiling, though, will be a multibillion dollar bond issue to build new highways, bridges, and schools, an infrastructure agenda that is "the antithesis of edgy". LINK

Columnist George Skelton also Notes Schwarzenegger's newly conciliatory attitude, writing in the Los Angeles Times that "the atmosphere has changed around the Capitol. The air is less polluted." LINK

Politics of Katrina:

It comes from an unlikely source, but the New York Times says that one of the best hopes for rebuilding New Orleans amounts to a big government plan of "grandiose" proportions, which has been proposed by very conservative Rep. Richard Baker. LINK

Media:

Susan Glasser was named yesterday as the new head of the Washington Post's Outlook section. LINK

(Note to Susan: let us know when we can start pitching you piece ideas. We are itching to be part of the Glasser Remake.)

Political potpourri:

Be sure to read the Washington Post's Reliable Source today on former Vice President Gore's global warming presentation to Grover Norquist's Wednesday Meeting. LINK

Former White House chef Walter Scheib yesterday denied to the New York Daily News that he served scallops to the First Family against their wishes. LINK

Harvard's 2006 Institute of Politics has announced its spring fellows. They include Jane Campbell, the former mayor of Cleveland, OH, Dotty Lynch, the former senior political editor of CBS News, Ken Cooper, the former National Editor of the Boston Globe, and Al Felzenberg of the 9/11 Commission. Good luck to you all. Note advice: take ANY class that meets in Sanders Theater. LINK